Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Healing Process

“There is no such thing as ‘ethics’ in war, and anyone who believes there is has never won one.”- Author Unknown

December 6, 2016,
19:02 local time,
The Loveboat Original Location,
Manhattan, New York

It finally was here- Election Night, where Juan Castro would learn if his massive lead in the polls would translate into a coronation as the North American Union’s next President.

Tonight he was hosting a party at the first ever location of his famous series of nightclubs, The Loveboat, where every TV was tuned in to the election coverage being provided by the only channel all of North America seemed to think was believable, the Cable News Network, or CNN.

The mood was light and festive, as the news all through the day was about Castro’s commanding lead in the polls, which, according to the polling averages done by the Roman Free Press, put Castro’s poll number at 49%, compared to his opponents, Haylie Modine at 22% and Thomas Bighill at 20%. There wasn’t a prognosticator who didn’t predict a landslide Castro victory- which is why the next guest on CNN caught the eyes of the viewing party.

“Joining me now is Nate Silver, the chief writer and editor for the popular political blog,,” said Megyn Kelly, introducing her next guest, “and he says that Juan Castro may not have this election in the bag, despite his seemingly big lead in the polls.”
“Thank you, Megyn,” said Silver. “Yes, you are correct in that assessment. What a lot of people do not understand in this situation is that, as it’s always been in North America, the popular vote does not elect the next President, the Electoral College does, and the Electoral College assigns its electors based on the winner of the state, regardless of whether or not the winner wins by twenty points or just one.”
“OK,” said Kelly, “where do you see the problem spots for Castro?”
“First,” said Silver, “what’s fuelling Castro’s huge rise in the polls are what are pointing to some rather historic and unprecedented results in New York, Carolina and Virginia, where Castro is predicted to win by 85 points…I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before. However, that’s a large reason why Castro is polling near 50% and is in Electoral trouble- yeah, he could gain something like 35 million votes, but he’d only get 55 Electoral College votes.”
“Which is still a lot,” said Kelly, “but, obviously, not enough for the victory.”
“Yes,” said Silver. “I’m seeing very tight races in places like Ontario, like Quebec, like Cascadia where, if Castro doesn’t flip them, he’ll lose.”
“So where does Castro stand right now?” said Kelly.
“Right now, he’s sitting at 56 votes- the three states I said he was leading by a large margin,” said Silver, “and Maine, where he’s also predicted to win big but not by a historic margin. The rest…they’re all way too close to call. Well, okay, Coahuila and its 14 votes are probably Castro’s, because he’s up by eight points there…still close but I’m comfortable making that call there.”
“So he’s at 70 Electoral College votes,” said Kelly. “All told.”
“Yeah,” said Silver. “Way more than his opponents…but not enough to say ‘he’s going to win tonight’.”
“Which contradicts everything he’s been saying,” said Kelly. “I mean, he hasn’t even campaigned once in Quebec or Cascadia and only visited Toronto early in the campaign…he’s spent most of his time in New York.”
“Exactly,” said Silver. “He’s taking this result for granted and it could cost him.”
“Who, then, is in a better situation for the upset?” said Kelly. “Modine or Bighill?”
“Hayley,” said Silver without hesitation. “She’s managed to be neck and neck with Castro in way more polls…Bighill just looks like he’s going to play spoiler and steal votes in many states. He might win a few but he doesn’t look like he’ll be a factor in many states…the only swing states where he’s even a factor is in the Arctic and in Arizona.”
“Looks like he was a poor choice to ‘save’ the Federalist Party,” said Kelly.
“He’s doing better than the Feds’ first pick,” said Silver, “Rodney Dickens was getting hammered…Thomas Bighill at least is giving them a chance.”

“One more thing before we go here,” said Kelly. “I think we need to ask- how did we get to this point and is this reason to change things?”
“Very good question, Megyn,” said Silver. “We need to remember that the Electoral College assigns its votes on a per state basis, and in each state, the winner of that state’s vote gets the entire slate of Electors, regardless of whether or not the winner wins by one point or 90…and let’s not forget, the winner only needs a plurality of the vote, not a majority. So if the winner scores 25%, 2nd place gets 24% and 3rd gets 20%…the winner gets the Electoral votes, no questions asked.

“So I want to answer this in two parts- one, the Electoral College in principle…well, you can make 100 arguments to keep it and 100 arguments to abolish it, so I won’t make a stand on that. Second, though, if we do keep it, I think we’ll have to look at changing how states assign their votes…we need to start looking at things like runoffs and preferential balloting instead of ‘winner takes all’. We’ve been pretty lucky that the NAU has always had a ‘two-party system’ rendering the questions concerning ‘winner take all’ moot…but I think, with three viable parties, where this kind of insane vote splitting occurs more often, we’ve got to start asking those questions.”

“Pfft,” said Castro, waving at the TV screens. “What does Nate Silver know?”
“He’s only the leading electoral prognosticator in the continent,” said Castro’s vice-presidential pick, Martha Cadsen, disapproving of Castro’s dismissive attitude, “and he’s only been saying things that I have been telling you for weeks.”
“Martha, Martha, Martha,” said Castro, putting his arm around Cadsen, “and I’m telling you that you’re worrying way too much. We’re polling at near 50%…what could possibly go wrong?”

Cadsen patted his belly and gave him a restrained smile before walking away, as Castro looked on, that smug smile still etched on his face.

As the polls closed at 9PM, Castro had every reason to continue his smile. Initial results went as expected, with New York, Carolina and Virginia all called with incredible victory margins, as preliminary results saw Castro and his American Party win each state by 90% of the vote. Soon, Maine too was called for Castro, where he gained 64% of the vote netting him a 33% victory margin. The next states that was a resounding Federalist victory in Washington, D.C. by 33%, followed by Indiana going to the Americans by a 10% margin.

This meant that, an hour after the polls closed, Castro had picked up 59 Electoral College votes, almost halfway to the needed total of 126, while the Federalists only picked up three Electoral votes and the one predicted to be Castro’s main rival- Modine and the Unionist Party- hadn’t picked up a single Electoral vote.

It would be another hour before Modine finally got on the scoreboard, where Iowa, Illinois and Modine’s home state of Arkansas were called for the Unionists. This still meant Castro’s lead was intact, as the Unionists still only had 15 votes at this stage.

Castro, though, began to wonder why places like Ontario and Quebec, in the same time zone as New York, weren’t yet called, but he didn’t seem troubled by it. Cadsen, however, was, knowing that Modine’s extensive campaigning- and her much better ground game- were making those states closer than she felt they should have been.

The mood in the room soon picked up when it was confirmed that Coahuila was declared for Castro, followed by Kentucky, which Castro won by only 4%. Still, it meant that Castro now had 73 Electoral College votes, more than halfway to victory, with the Unionists still stuck at 15 and the Federalists pulling up the rear at three. This meant his opponents would need the rest of the states to fall their way to have any chance of catching up.

A shot of laughter could be heard around the room when it was announced that the Rockian Northern Council, that band of territory that used to be the Dakotas that turned into Bighill’s “pet project”, was awarded to Bighill, meaning, for the moment, the Federalists were actually in second place. There was even more laughter when it was announced that the Americans had actually cut into Bighill’s victory, with commentators believing a protest of that the state’s decision to deny rights to those of Anglo-Saxon descent prevented Bighill from as resounding a victory as he might have hoped in his home state.

However, after the RNC and a Unionist victory in Utah (netting the POP 12 more votes for a total of 27)…every state that was left was a tight race, and many were way too close to call. Cadsen began to fear the worst, and as the night wore on, she was right.

At 1AM, when the polls on the West Coast began to close, the Unionists picked up steam, eking out victories in Cascadia and Colorado, with the Adirondacks state comfortable enough with its vote count to also award their state to the Unionists. Also at 1AM, the Arctic went to the Federalists, meaning the American Party’s lead shrunk to just twenty Electoral Votes.

The mood in the room became sullen, as shock and disbelief took over. Many in the room- other than Cadsen- wondered how an election that seemed so secure for them was falling from their grasp. Fifteen minutes later, Castro’s supporters found reason to smile as Arizona and Alberta fell their way, giving the Americans 87 Electoral votes.

Hope, however, was fleeting.

At 1:30AM, in a surprise, Montana went to the Unionists, with the crowd learning that it was a close three-way race that the Unionists won with only 34% of the vote. Screams of “that’s not fair!” emanated from the floor, and murmurs began to flow indicating that the election just might have been rigged.

“People’s Official Party?” said one angry supporter, referencing the Unionists’ official nickname for their party, which gets abbreviated as “POP”. “More like the ‘People’s Oppressor’s Party!” he concluded.

Five minutes later those howls got louder, as California fell to the Unionists, defeating the Americans by a mere .38%, 40.55% to 40.16%. Shock then turned to anger, when Wolf Blitzer boomed from the TV that the close races of Ontario and Quebec would decide the election, with the winning party needing to secure both states to claim an Electoral College victory.

As the polls in those states worked to tabulate and re-tabulate the results- since the votes were too close to call- the CNN commentators discussed the possibility of no one securing an Electoral victory. In this case, the vote would go to the House of Representatives’ 251 members, of which 111 belonged to the Federalist Party, 81 to the Unionists and 59 to the Americans. If the Representatives could not decide it, the decision would then fall to the House of Lieutenants’ 56 members, of whom 25 were Feds, 19 were from the POP and 12 were Americans. Failing that vote, it then fell to the 23 state legislatures, where five were controlled by the Americans, nine were controlled by the Feds and eight were controlled by the POP, with one independent- the Rockian Northern Council- that would be expected to vote for Bighill.

If the state legislatures could not come to an agreement, the final line of defence was the NAU’s “state coalitions”, or the different collective of states that are officially represented by the Treaty of Buffalo. The leaders of these eight coalitions would then gather and decide the next President, and since there are only eight of them, it’d be expected they reach a consensus.

“It’d be one giant mess if we don’t get a winner tonight,” said Blitzer with a wry smile as the others in the CNN studio laughed.

As the hours passed, nerves began to jangle, with adrenaline keeping many of those gathered awake. The vote count was essentially tied, with Castro holding an 87-86 lead over Modine in the Electoral count. All that was left were Ontario’s 14 votes and Quebec’s 30 votes, both of which were needed for one side to win the election.

At 4AM, seven hours after the polls had officially closed, Quebec was finally called, with CNN awarding the state to Modine. Lots of grumbles and howls could be heard, with tears flowing readily in the room as those gathered realized that, now that Ontario’s 14 votes would only be enough for an Electoral College plurality and not give Castro the victory. Cadsen tried to keep the place upbeat by reminding those gathered they still had a chance, as Bighill was not well-liked by his own party, but it was small solace to a room that felt so assured just three hours ago.

Finally, at 4:20AM, the Americans’ fate was sealed. Ontario finally had a result, and it wasn’t a result the room had hoped. Modine was officially declared the winner by a mere 49,000 votes, the Unionists- with support largely from downtown Toronto- securing the victory 42.47% to 42.01%. This meant that Modine and the Unionists were officially the winners of the North American Presidential Election, claiming 130 Electoral College votes- four more than what was needed- to Castro’s 87 and Bighill’s 34, despite securing only 24.27℅ of the vote.

Castro, for his part, secured 50.13℅ of the popular vote- more than any other Presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984- with Castro’s edge in the tally, 25.86℅ over Modine, was the largest since Warren Harding in 1920.

However, since most of Castro’s votes came in New York, Carolina and Virginia, and since Modine eked out almost every close race, Modine won the Electoral vote and thus the election.

Loud groans of anger emanated across the room, with many a beer bottle being thrown, including by Castro. He then walked to one of the room’s many disco balls and grabbed it, contemplating ripping it from the ceiling before his senses got the better of him. The cleanup bill would be huge and the effort massive, a nuisance he didn’t wish to add when his mood was already at his low point.

He did, however, make a vow to everyone gathered.

“I’m not conceding,” said Castro. “That b*** isn’t getting a call from me. She rigged that election and I’m going to find out how. You have my word.”

December 7, 2016,
08:36 local time,
The Harding Residence Complex,
Chicago, Illinois

“You’ve got it?” Buck said, talking to his friend on the phone. “I’ll pick it up later...yes, a bill and a half is fine.”

The burly redhead with the thick goatee then hung up his phone and set it on the counter so that he could sit down and watch TV.

“Well, it didn’t take long,” said Kelly, doing her best to stay awake for her usual morning anchor shift despite the long night. “Juan Castro- who, like us, doesn’t seem to sleep- announced today he is seeking recounts in several states, including Ontario, Quebec, California and Montana, all states he lost by less than a percentage point. However, because the margin in those states was greater than a quarter of a percentage point, Castro will have to foot the bill himself, and the likelihood of the result being overturned is remote, as no recount has ever recovered that kind of a deficit.”

“What does he expect to gain out of this?” asked co-anchor Don Lemon, who let out a yawn as he too was up late covering the election. “Right now he looks petty...I mean, yeah it’s a shocking loss...but it’s not a tainted one. Hayley won fair and square...he needs to accept that.”
“Especially after a bitter campaign that got personal,” said Kelly, “and not just for him and Modine but I think for all of us.”
“Oh I know,” said Lemon. “I’m not going to even try to pretend to know what you and many women like you are going through right now...and this is just prolonging the hurt.”
“Tell me about it,” said Kelly, who let out a sigh but kept her composure when Lemon gave her a reassuring pat on her shoulder.

Buck, though, decided he had enough and shut off the TV in disgust.

“Those b***es,” he said, sneering at the TV. “They don’t know what I’m going through. I’ll show them...their tyranny will end soon.”

December 22, 2016,
17:09 local time,
CNN Studios,
Manhattan, New York

“Well, Madam President,” said Blitzer, greeting Modine as his guest. “Looks like the recounts are all going in your favour.”
“As I expected,” said Modine, smiling and shifting in her chair. “Let’s not pull any punches Wolf...what Castro is doing is petty and stupid. He’s no better than a petulant child, complaining that he never got his way. Serves him right...he’s never respected anyone that’s told him ‘no’.”
“Even still,” boomed Blitzer, “there are many people that see the size of his popular vote victory and contend you still don’t have legitimacy.”
“Wolf,” said Modine, putting on a brave face, “after all I have been through, I’m choosing not to worry about those who don’t think I won legitimately...I just go back to the facts...everyone says my result is clean, and while the system was strange this year, it’s what we have to work with and I won based on those parameters...parameters we’ve all known for well over a century. So I fall back to that and let the haters be haters...they’ll never change their minds. I’ll focus on governing, and work with those who want to work with me...because this country needs to heal and we’ve got to start doing that.”

December 23, 2016
11:29 local time,
Trump Imperial Tower,
Manhattan, New York

“We have to accept the results,” said New York Emperor Donald Trump to a large cadre of reporters gathered outside of his Imperial Residence. “Personally, I’m flattered that some people think I’d be a great choice for President...but I refuse to participate in the undermining of our democratic system. Yes, it needs changes...but we need to do it the right way.”

Trump then leaned in towards the microphone and broadened his shoulders, gesturing wildly with his hands as he continued his speech.

“I’m going to tell you right now, folks…if anyone…anyone…in the Electoral College selects me for President I will immediately not accept and I will immediately hand over the reins to the rightful winner of the election, Ms. Haylie Modine.”

“Your Highness,” said a reporter as questions started to be taken, “you don’t think it’s unfair that Juan Castro didn’t win the election despite the margins of victory he attained?”
“Oh of course it’s unfair,” said Trump, extending his arms before clasping his hands together strongly and audibly. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen an election where the winning candidate does so poorly in the popular vote…I mean I’m not even sure how you can win an election yet lose the vote by 24 points…I mean, I think Haylie’s loss margin is the worst in almost a hundred years…it’s incredible to think about that. How much of the vote did Haylie get?”
“24.27%, sir,” said another reporter.
“24.27%, eh?” said Trump, who let out a sardonic chuckle and made a face while doing it. “People in England have lost elections with that total…in fact, many times, you finish third with that total…and Haylie won!”
“So isn’t that reason enough for you to go to the Electoral College and tell them they have a duty to elect Juan Castro as President…or a compromise candidate, like yourself?” said another reporter.
“No,” said Trump emphatically. “I said it before…as absurd as Haylie’s victory is, as far as we can tell, she won it fair and square…and if you play a game…and play it according to its rules…which Haylie did…then we have a duty to uphold that result.”
“…but Emperor Trump,” piped in an impatient reporter, “aren’t you worried about what Haylie will do once she has control of Congress?”
“She’s bound by the North American Constitution,” said Trump curtly, “and, regardless, that’s immaterial now. It doesn’t change the fact she won the election.”

As a torrent of reporters howled in a vain attempt to get the next question, Trump superseded them and made a broad announcement from the podium.

“Listen folks, I need to address something,” said the Emperor. “All this stuff about Haylie being unfit for the job, about being a dangerous demagogue, about being a wide-eyed idealist whose vision isn’t realistic…I’m not going to disagree with you, on many parts. However, none of those arguments apply here. Those were great arguments to make on December 6…not now, after the election, when the people have already voted. The core of the matter here is that you are asking the Electoral College to disregard the will of the people and the will of the states who voted and I don’t care who the candidate is, you just don’t do that. You just don’t do that. You just don’t. For our democracy to work, people need to believe in the system and they can’t believe in it if the system decides, arbitrarily, that sometimes they don’t want to pick the person the people voted for. That’s just not right, folks, and I will not stand for it.

“The only way…the only way I could ever consider nullifying an election result is if the candidate somehow cheated…and we know Hayley did not. So, let’s stop the haranguing, please…she won fair and square, and that’s the end of it. Thank you!”

Trump then stepped off the podium as the torrent of questions rained on him, but it was to no avail- Trump left many of the reporters hanging, as he felt there was nothing more he needed to say. It was a fool’s game what Castro’s supporters were after, and Trump preferred not to feed their crazy theories any further.

He went up to his penthouse and fixed himself something to eat, hoping that lunch would help take his mind off the craziness that was the North American election. No wonder we can’t get this Union to work…nobody wants to make it work, he thought.

As he was about to bite down into his sandwich, he was informed he had a guest.

“Send him in,” said the Emperor. He sighed, but his mood brightened when the guest arrived.

“Juan!” said Trump to Castro. “Glad you could make it.” Trump then shook Castro’s hand and patted Castro’s shoulder, pulling Castro’s hand towards his body.
“Me as well,” said Castro with a smile. “I didn’t even try to resist the handshake this time.” Castro then noticed Trump’s sandwich.

“Nice sandwich,” he said.
“Got a little hungry,” said Trump. “Busy day…so I whipped one up.”
“Don’t you have people that can make it for you?” said Castro.
“Yeah,” said Trump, “but sometimes I like doing things myself.”
“Makes sense,” said Castro.
“Do you want anything?” said Trump.
“Some of your ice water would be nice,” said Castro, as Trump dutifully pulled out a bottle of his brand-named ice water for Castro. Castro was really craving alcohol, but since Trump doesn’t drink, Castro didn’t bother to ask.

“So, you wanted to talk to me?” said Castro as he savoured his first sip of his drink.
“I think you need an intervention, Juan,” said Trump as he began eating his sandwich. “All this recount and Electoral College stuff…give it up.”
“…but Donald,” said Castro, “you saw the results…they’re ridiculous. There’s no way they’re fair.”
“Juan,” said Trump. “They uncovered no evidence of election tampering…Haylie’s win was as clean as a whistle.”
“I can’t believe you’d defend someone who hired a known criminal for her campaign,” said Castro, referring to Modine’s hiring of Ingrid Fjallsdottir, the disgraced feminist icon convicted in August for running a human trafficking ring.
“Ingrid’s crime was horrific, and it certainly suggests she could craft a large conspiracy,” said Trump with a restrained smile, “but there’s no proof that Ingrid actually did rig the election in favour of Haylie. Look, you’re not getting an argument from me…Hayley’s a scary individual. I’m not sure how I’ll be able to work with her…I just might have to pull out of the NAU, and I’d rather not do that.

“However,” said Trump, letting out a huge sigh. “My father was a proud American, and raised me the same way. I said I would do everything I could to keep this Union together and keep it functioning…and for me to do that, I have to respect its institutions. I may not like it, but I have to respect them, and one way I do that is by respecting its elections. I know you won the vote by an absurd margin and I would rather have you in power…but, that’s not how our elections work. I’d like to see them changed, but not to invalidate this result…it would create an even bigger issue than even you could imagine.”

“Oh come on,” said Castro, making a face. “What’s the worst that could happen? A few riots, a lawsuit here and there…nothing I couldn’t handle.”
“More than that, Juan,” said Trump. “You’d have no legitimacy once in power. Your American Party will be seen as schemers who don’t have any respect for our institutions and our processes. No one in Congress will work with you. Your Presidency will be challenged all the way to the Supreme Court, and maybe even the Romans would make a decision on it. Guaranteed you’re not surviving the end of the term and you’ll have no career in public office, or even anywhere in the public eye. Trust me, nothing good can come from messing with our democracy…nothing.”

“…and you know,” said Trump, as he walked over to a fridge and picked up an ice water himself before returning to his table, “even if I wanted to influence the Electoral College, I couldn’t. Since your party emerged out of the whole cloth, with so many people defecting, you didn’t have a convention and you never picked electors…in fact, no party did. This time, it’s entirely up to the states, meaning, ostensibly, I’d do it but I’m leaving that up to my Congressmen. Furthermore, we’re supposed to keep the names of the electors secret.”
“They’re a secret this year?” asked Castro, surprised.
“Yeah,” said Trump, “because of your loons.”
“Hey man,” said Castro, “don’t be calling my supporters loons. They’re good people.”
“Oh I know most of them are good people,” said Trump, “but you’ve got a few guys with a screw loose trying to, well, loosen up some unwilling girls and…well, Juan, you haven’t said anything about it. It’s unnerving, really.”
“Why should I say something?” said Castro. “They’re adults, presumably. They’re free to make their own decisions…I have no control over them. In fact, I should shoulder no responsibility for what they do.”
“Not disagreeing with you,” said Trump. “However, they are doing it in your name…you need to at least disavow it and at least say those loons aren’t your ‘real’ supporters. By saying nothing you’re almost implicitly endorsing it.”
“Well, Donald,” said Castro ominously. “Maybe I do. When it comes to Hayley…there’s nothing I wouldn’t support.”

December 23, 2016,
04:15 local time,
Lincoln Park,
Chicago, Illinois

“I’ll call you in the morning,” said Helen Hofstrate on the phone, “If I can find the ornament I’ll bring it...I’ll see you soon. Bye Mom.”

The svelte brunette with the bright eyes and an even brighter smile walked down the street with confidence, ecstatic for the future. The nursing student had one more semester to finish at DePaul after which she had multiple offers for employment to consider. She had a loving boyfriend and a very supportive family, one that helped her stay afloat when she accumulated all that debt.

If only she could get the dog from chewing off the table legs, things would be perfect, she thought. Can’t have it all, I guess, she often thought.

As she walked, she felt the crispness of the cold Chicago air against her skin, which helped soothe and relax her from all of her stresses.

Suddenly, though, she was stopped in her tracks and let out a scream.

A baseball bat struck her and sent her to the ground, upon which almost immediately she felt the prick of a needle that injected ketamine into her system. Woozy, Hofstrate felt herself being dragged into the nearby bushes by her legs. Her vision was blurry, but she saw that she was in a small clearing. She didn’t see who her attacker was, but she felt his strong hands on her thighs, where she was being held up with one arm while another hand was fumbling around with the zipper to her pants.

As the attacker managed to undo her pants and pull them down, she let out an inaudible gasp, unable to muster the energy to scream. She then began to pant, extremely anxious for what was going to happen next, as she realized, below her waist, she was completely shorn of her clothes and there was nothing she could do to resist. She closed her eyes and kept breathing, trying to keep her composure, but there was little she could do when her attacker stuck his finger up her vagina and began to service it. She felt helpless as her body was getting aroused, even getting to a point where she reached orgasm.

With her vagina wet, her body aroused but her mind very confused, she let out a huge gasp as she felt her attacker’s penis penetrating her and began to thrust. Shock at this stage took over, as her brain was doing all it could to rectify what was happening. Eventually, the man sped up his thrusts, which sent her body into a torrent of euphoric responses that her brain eventually was unable to resist. When the attacker reached orgasm himself, Hofstrate did as well, the best one she ever reached, as she went through a tidal wave of reactions and emotions inside both her body and her brain doing all it could to understand the gravity of what just happened.

Her attacker then left, leaving her lying there, panting heavily but still shorn of the energy to do much of anything else. She laid there, confused, her emotions crashing together into competing cavalcades of anxiety and euphoria.

Caught in between the ecstasy of achieving incredible sexual excitement amidst the intense shame and humiliation of being conquered and violated, there was little Hofstrate could do but continue lying there, stunned, her body still not feeling like it had any energy even after the effects of the drug wore off.

It was at this time she heard another man’s voice calling out, seemingly to her.

“Oh, by Jove,” said the man, caught by the intense shock of the sight. “Miss, are you okay?”
“Um,” said Hofstrate, her voice coarse as it began to recover its strength. “I…I don’t know.”
“Listen,” said the man, doffing his long overcoat with lots of urgency. “Take my coat…it’s too cold for you to be outside like this. Let me get you to safety.”
“I…I think I would like that,” said Hofstrate, smiling in appreciation. She needed to be helped to her feet, upon which the man took it upon himself to carry her in his arms. Drained, Hofstrate soon fell asleep, as the man dutifully brought her to his car.

“You don’t lose until you give up, and a warrior never gives up,”- Fatmia Turbal, Omai general after defeating the Mongols at the Battle of Tora Bora (2002) which turned the tide of the Mongol-Omani War (2001-02)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Castro Effect

“What you say matters. What you mean matters more.”- Roman proverb

September 23, 1995,
04:11 local time,
Juan Castro’s Suite,
Manhattan, New York

“I had a lot of fun with you tonight,” said Clara Hughson right before digging in again into Juan Castro’s mouth and smothering him with another deep kiss, as Castro ran his hands along her legs and her backside.
“I did too,” said Castro, his smile as wide as ever having enjoyed the kiss. “The way you moved when Biggie came on...”
“Oh stop!” Hughson said with a laugh, right before playfully slapping Castro’s chest.
“Usually you have to go to the South to see a girl move like you do,” said Castro. “I think you could give them quite a run for their money.”
Hughson laughed, as all she could do was blush before deciding another kiss was in order.

The two of them met that night. Hughson was an aspiring model, a busty blonde whose fitness and style were testaments to the amount of time and energy she put into her look. Castro, too, took care of his fitness, being a muscular man whose shaved head made him look even more imposing. However, the nightclub magnate, celebrating the opening of another location of his Loveboat series of nightclubs, was typically a jovial man whose charms made him a lot of friends.

Eventually, the two lovers out of happenstance made their way into Castro’s apartment, their hands barely leaving each other’s bodies as they continued their ever tightening embrace. It wasn’t before long before things heated up to the point where the hold of their clothing to their bodies was becoming loose, with the two of them entwined on top of Castro’s bed.

It was at this moment that Hughson was beginning to have second thoughts, and she became less enthusiastic about the encounter the more it continued. As Castro, holding Hughson tightly while both lay sideways, played with the straps of her dress, Hughson tried to back away before tapping Castro in the hopes that he would loosen his grip. Castro kept pushing and tried to move himself on top of Hughson, but Hughson kept resisting. It wasn’t until Castro tried running his hands down her breasts that Hughson finally got herself free.

“Clara?” Castro said, confused as Hughson stood over the bed. “What’s wrong?”

“I,” started Hughson as she sighed while readjusting her dress. “I just...”
“What, darling?” Castro said, getting up from the bed. He then walked towards her and began rubbing her arms, progressively bringing himself closer to her. “You can tell me anything.”

“I just can’t!” Hughson said, peeling herself away from Castro after he had begun to run his hands up her thighs and on to her buttocks.

“I’m sorry,” said Castro, mystified about the whole situation as Hughson found a chair and began to sob, burying her head in her hands. “An hour ago you were glued to me. Did I do something wrong?”

Hughson sighed again.

“No,” said Hughson. “It’s-”
“ ‘It’s not you it’s me’,” said Castro, deadpanning. “You’re not the first girl to say that to me.”
“It’s true though,” said Hughson, wiping tears from her eyes. “I broke up with my boyfriend two weeks ago...I thought I was ready to get back into dating but I was wrong.”
“This is just sex, though,” said Castro. “I’m not asking for a relationship.”
“I know,” said Hughson. “This just feels weird. I don’t know how to describe it to you. I’m just not comfortable...I’m sorry.”

Castro pursed his lips and nodded, lowering his head slightly.

“Fair enough,” said Castro. “I understand.”
“Thank you Juan,” said Hughson with a smile.
“I can walk you back to your apartment,” said Castro
“It’s okay,” said Hughson. “I know it’s New York but I can handle it.”
“Okay,” said Castro, downcast but accepting. “Well, it was nice meeting you.”
“You too,” said Hughson with a warm smile as she left Castro’s apartment.

November 9, 2016,
15:39 local time,
British Leyland Corporate Headquarters,
London, England

“Johnnie,” said New Yorker Emperor Donald Trump with a huge smile as he walked into the office of British Leyland Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Grant.
“Always good to see you too, Donald,” said Grant who smiled as the two men embraced before taking their seats.

Although Trump was a head of state, the two men really were cut from the same cloth, as both had business backgrounds and Trump ran his Empire like a business. Grant was a slender man, bespectacled with a goatee and a velvety, medium-toned voice that belied his affable nature. Not to be outdone was Trump, a big man with an even bigger voice, a smooth baritone that could intimidate or charm based on what he needed.

“Now, the Rover factory,” said Trump after the two of them had made small talk. “Lot of people are going to be losing their jobs…you shouldn’t be surprised that I’m here.”
“As I would expect,” said Grant. “It’s an endearing quality of yours that you fight for your people.”
Trump smirked, always one to accept flattery. “Thank you,” he said, “which is why I’m sure you can respect that I didn’t just come here for nice words.”
“Of course not,” said Grant with a laugh.

Grant then pursed his lips and adopted a less jovial tone.

“I’m afraid that’s all you’re going to get,” he said. “I’ve already spoken to Union steward for the Rover factory, our chief Union representative, your Chancellor…unless you’ve got something new to offer to me, I’m not sure there’s anything you can say that can save the factory.”

Trump smirked, not at all fazed by the stakes of the conversation. British Leyland had a Rover factory in Allentown, Pennsylvania that employs over 15,000 people in various capacities. The plant is slated to close in March, with operations moving to Canbidia, Angola. British Leyland asserted the move was just a cost-cutting venture, but Trump believed it has political motivations as well. Angola was a member of the Virtue Federation, of which British Leyland was the organization’s most important and profitable company. Its factories are often used as “rewards” for Virtue nations that “toe the party line”, and the Angolans fit this bill perfectly. Their new President, Charles Gambo, eliminated the country’s protective tariffs, passed a law further limiting abortion and vetoed a bill by the previous government that had considerably relaxed the nation’s drug laws, among other reforms.

For his efforts, Virtue decided he was worthy of a reward, one he’s sell to his people as proof that his policies are working because he’s “brought them jobs”, despite the fact it would still be a near certainty the factory wouldn’t be built in good condition and the workers would still be making a pittance, if they made any money at all.

Trump knew this and knew that British Leyland’s reputation had taken a big hit for being complicit in exploitation, which only served to make the New Yorkers angrier that their factory was moving.

Unfortunately, Grant was a “dollars and cents” guy, and he wasn’t budging at all during the negotiations. Trump sensed that he wasn’t getting anywhere so he bid his adieus.

“Good seeing you Johnnie,” said Trump, downcast as he got up from the couch.
“Listen, Donald,” said Grant, “you tried. That’s what’s important.”
“Yeah,” said Trump, “but, as Brandy sang, ‘Almost Doesn’t Count ‘.”
Grant smiled, as that was one of his favourite songs.

“Say, Johnnie,” said Trump as he got to the door. “Did they ever find Christine?”
“No,” said Grant, downtrodden as he was reminded of his girlfriend’s daughter. She had been working at a Volkswagen facility in Orenburg before it was attacked by Rostovian militants in May.
“I’m sorry,” said Trump, saddened to hear the news. “I hope they find her.”

“You know,” said Grant, wheels spinning in his head. “Russia is in almost the same condition as Angola...their people are just as poor, authorities are just as corrupt...of course, Angola actually has a central government and Russia doesn’t, but it’s just as need a military to defend the factory and Volkswagen never hired one...and they lost billions because of it. Not to mention all their workers.”

Grant then scurried to his computer and typed up a document really quickly, before printing it and signing it.

“Here Donald,” Grant said, thrusting the document in Trump’s face. “I’m not moving the’s too much of a risk.”

Trump smiled as he signed the document. He then made a photocopy, which he kept before passing off the original to Grant. The two now very happy men bid each other farewell, with Trump placing a phone call as soon as he stepped outside Grant’s door.

“Henry,” said Trump with a smile to Federalist Party Continental Chairman Henry Carter. “Always great to hear your voice. I got your text…what’s up?”
“Your Highness,” said Carter, not sharing in Trump’s jovialness. “We’re in a serious crisis in the North American election.”
“Yes, I heard,” said Trump. “What did you expect when your nominee is the village idiot?”
“See, that’s the thing,” said Carter, showing obvious signs of stress in her voice. “We thought his dunderheadedness would be endearing…besides, he was Joseph Reddick’s VP. Rodney Dickens should have been a slam dunk.”

We thought his dunderheadedness would be endearing, thought Trump as he replayed Carter’s words in his head. He then shook it and chuckled, but thought better of chastising Carter.

“Listen, Donald, I have a very important question to ask you,” said Carter.
“Shoot,” said Trump, starting to get impatient.
“Donald,” said Carter. “You’re very well liked in our circles…maybe even beyond. You might be one of the few people in the Federalist brand who could have a coast to coast reach without us having to advertise who you are…you’d be perfect to replace Rodney as our nominee. Will you do it?”

Seriously? Trump thought. I’m EMPEROR of New York…I’m a signatory of the Treaty of Buffalo…nations worldwide already recognize me and some of them even fear me…the NAU Presidency would be a downgrade. I don’t need it to cement any kind of legacy…I’ve already made mine.

“Let me think about it,” said Trump.
“Oh great,” said a very relieved Carter, not hesitating to jump back into the conversation. “I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to know you’ll at least consider what we need. Our poll numbers are so bad…I mean Rod-”
“I’m not doing it,” said Trump curtly.
“Um, what?” said Carter, dumbfounded, “but…you just said you were thinking about it.”
“Yeah,” said Trump. “That’s true. I didn’t say how long I’d think about it.”

Carter then began to start panting heavily, which caused Trump to roll his eyes.

“Can’t you think about it for a little bit longer?” said Carter.

Trump then waited a few more seconds than he had previously before he reiterated his disinterest.

“Henry, there’s nothing you can say to me that would accept the nomination,” said Trump. “You guys had a process…Rodney was picked…you gotta respect that.”
“Donald,” said Carter, not even hiding his stress in his voice, “we’re polling at 5%. Five. Not 15% or 25%...five percent. Five. Let that sink in.”
“Oh it sinks,” said Trump. “I just don’t care. Your Party is a joke and you know it. I’ve got more influence than anyone else on the continent outside of Rome, and I’ll continue to do so no matter who wins this chintzy election. Nothing you can say to me will change my mind. Nothing.”

“How’s Ivanka doing?” said Carter, referring to Trump’s daughter.

Trump could only shake his head, recognizing that Carter was trying his own negotiating tactic.

Not going to change my mind,” said Trump. “Not now, not ever. Good night!” Trump then ended the call by pressing a button that sent the sound of a flip phone slamming shut to Carter before terminating the call on the other end.

November 11, 2016,
22:05 local time,
Kwame Arko’s Yacht,
102 nautical miles from Lima, Peru

“Ah,” said English Foreign Affairs Minister Jack Kent, relaxing on a couch on the deck of Kwame Arko’s tiny but luxurious yacht. “There’s nothing like feeling the ocean breeze on a calm, summer’s night.”
“She’s a beaut, all right,” said Arko with a smile before smacking the padding of his couch seat. Arko, known as Virtue’s leading investor and the leader of an unofficial group of the Virtue Federation’s largest companies known as “The Guild”, took in a deep breath and smiled again, enjoying the soothing crispness of the air.

Kent smiled as he took a sip of his wine, this being one of the few moments he had to relax. He was the de facto leader of Virtue, not just because of his official job but also because of his curious arrangement with the Chancellor of England, Toby Button, Kent’s close friend whose advanced age meant he was largely uninterested in day to day governing.

“Donald Trump convinced British Leyland not to leave for Angola,” said Arko, glancing at his phone.
“Good for him,” said Kent, as Arko was taken aback by his nonchalant demeanour.
“You’re not worried,” said Arko, more intrigued than disappointed.
“No,” said Kent. “Why should I worry about a real estate magnate who thinks giving himself a title makes himself an Emperor? We can let the bloviating buffoon think he’s a big deal when we know he’s nothing but a bug.”
“It’ll cut into British Leyland’s bottom line though,” said Arko, curious for Kent’s reply.
“Not by much, Kwame,” said Kent. “British Leyland would still have to pay millions, if not billions defending the plant in Angola. Besides, the workers in Allentown can actually afford the vehicles they’re making. The quality is better and therefore the company will be better for it. This change isn’t something I’m worried about.”

Kent then took another sip of his wine, felt the sting of the alcohol and sighed.

“I take it something is on your mind,” said Arko with a chuckle.
“I’m still smarting over Assyria,” said Kent. “That’s not an easy loss to take.”
“We thought the Aramean government was stronger than they actually were,” said Arko. “Besides, Assyria’s nothing more than a nuisance at this stage…Anatu is as powerful as Trump is right now, which is not much. She’s not worth worrying about.”

Arko then leaned forward, which piqued Kent’s interest.

“Juan Castro, though,” said Arko.
“North America is a disaster zone,” said Kent. “Why should we care about the President of an ineffective trade union?”
“Because Juan Castro is exactly our kind of candidate,” said Arko. “Brash, bold, pro-business and he’s anti-feminist. Besides, he operated for quite some time in Birea and has experience dealing with their officials…he could very well be a powerful figure in the making.”
“I don’t know,” said Kent. “The last time we meddled in an election we caused a revolution. I’m not sure I can take that risk again.”
“We were sloppy then,” said Arko. “Besides, we can write off Aram…North America is too valuable with all its resources and untapped capital. Plus the Romans are reeling and the people are looking for alternatives. We gotta take a chance.”
“I’m still skeptical,” said Kent. “Still sounds more fanciful than realistic.”

“Yeah,” said Arko with a smirk, “but I have a plan.”

Kent chuckled before clinking glasses with Arko.

“I always like it when you have a plan,” he said with a smile.

November 12, 2016,
08:02 local time,
Espen Knutsen Public High School,
Newport, Maine

“Hey,” said Kerry Whites as he and his friend Caroline Pemberton came upon Stuart McCallum, seated by himself outside the library.
“Hi Kerry,” said McCallum, barely moving his eyes from staring at the ground to acknowledge his guests.
“Got a lot on your mind?” said Pemberton, trying to break the awkwardness of the situation.
“Oh hi Caroline,” said McCallum, deadpanning. “Didn’t know you were there.”

Pemberton crouched down and tried to look McCallum in the eyes.

“Do you want to talk about it?” said Pemberton, who tried to get McCallum’s attention by caresses his cheek with her hand, which McCallum swatted away.

“Oh come on, Stewie!” said Pemberton, getting back up. “I thought we were friends.”
“You thought wrong,” said McCallum, agitated. He decided to grab his bag and got up.
“Let me guess,” said Whites, as McCallum started to walk away, “it’s a girl, isn’t it?”

McCallum hung his head and stopped in his tracks, before turning around and walking back.

“Yeah,” said McCallum. “It always is.”

McCallum was the son of a Birean immigrant, whose mother died in childbirth. Because Birean demographics, policies and cultural preferences for the birth of males left a significant dearth of women available to Birean men to date, many Bireans, like McCallum’s father, emigrated in order to find a wife. Like his father, McCallum had an intense desire to find love, which often turns women away from him who misunderstand his real intentions.

“You know,” said Whites, who put his arm around McCallum. “Castro’s leading all the polls…he’s telling men everywhere to ‘take a chance’…I think it’s time you did too.”
“There was a segment on Modern Man that we want to show you that will guarantee you will pick up a girl,” said Pemberton, referencing Castro’s hit TV show.
“Guarantee?” said McCallum, his interest piqued.
“Yes, guarantee,” said Pemberton. “Come on, let us show you.”

The three of them then walked into the library, where they met up with Lisa Cardellini, a bespectacled, slender brunette who today was wearing overalls and a sports bra, which McCallum found attractive. She did have a reputation for toughness, which was on display with the bruise on her face that she picked up when she had to beat three potential muggers in a fight while on her way to school.

“Hey Lisa,” said Whites, as the trio walked up to Cardellini who was browsing some books.
“Hey Kerry, Caroline,” said Cardellini, flashing a smile for her three guests. “Stuart, right?”
“Yes,” said McCallum, lowering his head because he was blushing.
“Oh, hey buddy,” said Cardellini, who flashed him another smile.
“Listen, Lisa, we need your help here,” said Whites. “Stewie here is looking for a girl…we need to know if there’s some technique he can use in order to find one.”
“Oh come on,” said Cardellini, scoffing. “There isn’t one. You just need to be yourself.”

Pemberton then walked forward, reaching her hand underneath Cardellini’s bra, running her hand on her breast and giving her nipple a few hard squeezes, which caused a few aroused gasps to come from Cardellini.

“Will you go out with me, Lisa?” said Pemberton.
“I can’t say no,” said Cardellini, who then began making out with Pemberton.
“See?” said Whites. “That’s what you have to do.”
“…but, that’s,” said McCallum, stunned. “That’s sexual assault.”
“No, no,” said Cardellini after finishing her kiss with Pemberton. “No it’s not. It’s a recognized trick, especially here in Maine. You’ll get away with it, trust me.”

McCallum had his doubts, but his friends were so certain and he was so desperate that he began thinking that maybe they were right.

“OK, so,” said McCallum, still nervous. “So I just reach into a girl’s shirt, touch her breast and ask her out?”
“You also have to squeeze her nipple,” said Cardellini. “You need to get that part right.”
“Um,” said McCallum. “Uh…well…um.”
“Try me,” said Cardellini. “I may be a lesbian so only Caroline could be successful on me, but I’m good for practice.”
“All right,” said McCallum.

At first he laboured, but as soon as he placed his hand on Cardellini’s skin, his confidence grew. He then reached under Cardellini’s sports bra, caressed her breast and squeezed her nipple a few times, which again caused Cardellini to let out satisfied gasps.

“I think you got it,” said Cardellini, who took out McCallum’s hand. She then gave McCallum a kiss on the cheek. “Now, go try it…I think I see Trudy.”

Sure enough, Cardellini was right, as there was Trudy Bowman, standing at a computer kiosk quickly checking her E-Mails. A member of the cheerleading team, Bowman was a blonde bombshell, and today McCallum found her especially alluring. Having just gotten out of cheerleading practice, Bowman’s curly locks were in a pony tail, and she too was wearing just a sports bra, with her warmup shirt tied around her waist.

“Come on,” said Cardellini, with the other two friends offering him encouragement. “Go talk to her.”

McCallum took a deep breath and adjusted his collar, before dropping his bag and making the walk towards Bowman.

Once he got to Bowman, his nerves soon took over, and when he tried to say hello, it came out a jumbled mess. Bowman, though, was understanding, deciding to flash a smile in the hopes it would calm McCallum down.

“Yes I know you’re Stuart,” said Bowman. “You had your picture taken with me a few weeks ago, when our team qualified for city finals.”
“I gave you a hug too,” said McCallum, still nervous. “Because it’s your fifth and final year.”

Bowman chuckled, remembering that did happen. She decided to do it again, and despite the fact McCallum held on a bit longer than she would have liked, it did calm his nerves, which Bowman was happy about.

“I needed that,” said McCallum. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” said Bowman. “Any time.”
“Listen, Trudy,” said McCallum, as his hand moved towards her breast. “I’ve liked you for a long time.” He then reached under Bowman’s bra, caressed her breast and squeezed her nipple, which caused her to gasp widely. “Will you go out with me?”

Bowman forcefully removed McCallum’s hand from her breast before readjusting her bra, taking a few deep breaths to collect herself after the shock of what just happened.

“OK, Stuart,” said Bowman, gripping McCallum’s wrist hard. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“I was…I was,” said McCallum, beginning to cry as he saw the anger all over Bowman’s face. “My…my…my friends were telling me about this trick on Modern Man which could land me any girl I wanted…so…so I tried it on you because…because…because I like you.” He then buried his head in his hands and turned away to cry before Bowman grabbed his shoulder and gave him another hug.

“Sweetie,” she said as McCallum cried on her shoulder. “Your friends…or rather, your ‘friends’…they’re playing a very mean joke on you. Modern Man never had such a sketch…Juan Castro was quite clear that there is no such thing as a ‘foolproof technique to gain girls’. He said it almost once a season, if not twice a year. Look, what you did…that’s sexual assault. That will get you in jail. Now…I understand why you did it. You didn’t mean anything wrong…but, you need to start using your head and knowing when people are playing a trick on you.”

It was at this moment Cardellini walked up to the pair, who ended their embrace.

“Excuse me, Trudy,” said Cardellini, who took on a very forceful tone and didn’t bother looking at McCallum. “Did this jerk touch your breast and claim it was from Modern Man?”
“Yes,” said Bowman, who started to get suspicious of the situation when Whites and Pemberton joined Cardellini. “Yes he did touch my breast and said it was from Modern Man…said it was a way to pick up women.”
“He just did it to me too,” said Cardellini. “In fact, he punched me when I told him ‘no’.” She then turned around and showed her the bruise on her face.

“Stuart McCallum!” said Bowman, her eyes wide and her face filled with shock as she started backing away. “I thought you were a nice man…I can’t believe I could let you fool me this! Is this what you think…that us girls are just there for your enjoyment?”

“…but, Lisa,” said McCallum, stunned at the new developments. “It was you that told me this trick on Modern Man…you and Kerry and Caroline-”
“We didn’t tell you anything,” said Whites. “We saw you assault our friend, and we saw you assault Trudy.”
“You’re a real despicable man, Stewie!” said Pemberton, the anger in her voice and on her face in full display. “You should be ashamed of yourself!”

It was at this point that the school’s librarian, Reece Pendergast, entered the library and immediately walked towards the commotion.

“What’s going on here?” said Pendergast, with her hands on her hips.
“Stuart McCallum is a pervert,” said Whites. “He needs to be removed from here.”

Whites, Pemberton, Cardellini and Bowman all explained what happened, with McCallum looking on in horror as the first three stuck to their lie. It was enough to convince Pendergast, who sent McCallum straight to the office.

November 12, 2016,
09:32 local time,
Principal’s Office, Espen Knutsen Public High School,
Newport, Maine

“This seems too harsh,” said Ned McCallum, the father of Stuart.
“There isn’t a punishment harsh enough for the crime Stuart committed,” said Principal Scott Stuckey sternly, giving McCallum an icy glare in his seat.
“Oh come on,” said McCallum, throwing up his hands in his seat. “He’s just a stupid kid…kids do stupid things. We all did them. Didn’t you ever put your hand where it wasn’t supposed to be?”
“Well right now your foot isn’t where it’s supposed to be,” said Stuckey.

“Look,” said Stuckey. “I don’t care how stupid you or I may have been. That doesn’t change that what Stuart did was wrong. Very wrong. You just don’t do that to anyone, let alone Trudy Bowman and Lisa Cardellini. He’s being expelled, and there’s nothing you can do to change my mind.”

McCallum shook his head and laughed sardonically.

“Man, when did those SJWs get to you Principal Stuckey?” said McCallum.
“Oh, is that what you think this is?” said Stuckey. “You think I’m a SJW now? Even if I was, since when is doing the right thing the wrong thing to do?”
“When it’s clearly wrong,” said McCallum. “You know Stuart…he’s not a threat. I raised him well…I taught him how to treat women well. This whole thing…it must be such a giant misunderstanding.”
“I don’t know,” said Stuckey. “Your Stuart was so aggrieved by Cardellini’s rejection that he punched her in the face.”
“You believe that two-faced b***?” said McCallum, shaking his head with his mouth agape.
“Watch your language Ned,” said Stuckey sternly. “I don’t tolerate misogynistic behaviour.”
“Oh come on,” said McCallum. “You’re already a big p***y. Expelling my son over a mistake, and taking those broads’ words at face value. My Stuart could hardly harm a flea, and he’s never been so much as even reprimanded for violence before today. You tell me how he could leave a welt on a girl?”
“I don’t care about his past,” said Stuckey, “I’ve got witnesses…that’s all I need.”
“…and you don’t care at all that my son’s story is completely off base with what your ‘witnesses’ said,” said McCallum who then let out a huff.
“Stuart has a reason to lie,” said Stuckey.
“Oh, so now he’s a liar!?” said McCallum, his eyes wide with disbelief.

Stuckey had enough. He got up and walked towards a picture of a girl hanging in his office, looking at it longingly.

“Do you know who this is?” said Stuckey.

McCallum shook his head and rolled his eyes.

“That’s the b*** who obviously was taught no self-control so she killed herself,” said McCallum.
Excuse me, Ned!?” said Stuckey. “That girl you so obviously dismiss has a name…it’s Aggie Mildred. Three years ago she was taken advantage of…by people like your son, who feel entitled to women’s bodies. She was shamed and bullied…humiliated…reduced…all because someone else destroyed her. Yet it was her that had to face the torrent of abuse and putdowns, while her tormentor was hailed as a ‘hero’, and she killed herself because of it.” Stuckey caught himself as tears began to form in his eyes. “I…I just wish there was something I could have said or could have done to make her feel special, to make her know that her life was worth it…just something I could have done to prevent what happened, just so she could be here right now.”

Stuckey then rubbed his eyes, but it couldn’t stop him from sobbing. After a few minutes, there were still tears in his eyes and his voice still quivered, but he was composed enough to continue.

“I can’t tell you how much that eats at me inside,” said Stuckey, “how much Aggie Mildred reminds me that I failed as an administrator…not just for her but for all of us, and how there is nothing I can do to bring her back and undo all the mistakes that I did. So…”

Stuckey took in a deep breath which gave him the composure to continue.

“So the least I can do,” he said, “is stamp out bullying and stamp it out in a big way. Which is why I have to send a message, and tell bullies like your son that what they do is not tolerated. Say what you want that I’m ‘making an example’ out of your son…but Aggie would not want me to go easy on him…and I won’t. My decision is final.”

McCallum angrily grabbed the document acknowledging his son’s expulsion and shook his head, steaming, as he put on his coat.

“Your decision may be final,” said McCallum with fire burning in his eyes, “but our battle is just beginning.”

November 12, 2016,
10:18 local time,
La Grande Town Hall,
Eastern Townships, Quebec

“Haylie,” said Haylie Modine’s campaign manager, Tori McGuire as she opened the door to a makeshift dressing room the Town Hall made for Modine.
“Yes Tori,” said Modine as she was applying her lipstick. “You can come in.”
“Um, okay,” said McGuire, walking in tensely.
“Tori, what’s wrong?” said Modine, McGuire’s walking giving herself discomfort. “You shouldn’t be scared to tell me anything.”
“Haylie,” said McGuire, who began to stammer. “I’m…I’m sorry…I just…it’s just…”

Modine turned around, having gotten impatient.

“Just spit it out, why don’t you?” she snapped. “We don’t have time to waste.”

McGuire let out a huff and put her head down, finding it difficult to stifle her tears. This caused Modine to purse her lips and lower her own head, sighing in the process.

“Tori, I’m sorry,” said Modine, putting her hand on McGuire’s shoulder, which caused her to come in for a hug. The two then began to cry on each other’s shoulders.
“It’s the stress, I know,” said McGuire. “It’s getting to me too.”
“I’m guessing Thomas isn’t coming back, is he?” said Modine, referring to her old running mate, Thomas Bighill, who left Modine a few days prior to become the Federalist Party’s nominee for President after claiming Modine insulted him when she accidentally knocked a cup of coffee out of his hands.
“No, he’s not,” said McGuire. “That big lout is staying with the Feds.”
“Serves him right,” said Modine. “He’s just a big baby…the Feds deserve to crash with him.”

The two of them then had a therapeutic cry for a couple of minutes before eventually ending the embrace and getting back to business, having regained their composures.

“We need to do that more often,” said Modine with a smile as they both took a seat.
“I think we do,” concurred McGuire.
“Anyway, what’s up?” said Modine, leaning in with interest.
“Do you want the bad news or the good news first?” said McGuire, pulling out her smartphone.
“Um,” said Modine. “Bad news, I think.”

“Well,” said McGuire, “Castro’s still got a massive lead over you, 43% to 24%, based on polling averages by the Roman Free Press.”

“Erm,” said Modine, turning her mouth to the side. “That’s pretty bad.”

“The good news is,” said McGuire, “you’ve got an inside track to steal a few swing states and may, just may get 126 Electoral College votes and thus the election.”
“…but we’re almost down by twenty points,” said Modine, looking on in disbelief.
“Three parties this time,” said McGuire. “Lots of split votes.”
“I see,” said Modine, who wondered how the electoral system could be so messed up that someone losing by twenty percentage points in the popular vote could still win an election, but decided against arguing the point, since it benefitted her.

“That’s not all though,” said McGuire, who smiled as she adjusted her glasses. “Clara Hughson has agreed to join our campaign.”
“Clara?” said Modine with a wide smile. “That is good news.”
“She’s got some explosive stuff about Castro,” said McGuire. “Said he sexually assaulted her when she was 22 and an aspiring model. Said he took extensive advantage of her, mostly just to have sex.”
“Can we get her on today?” said Modine, unable to hide the excitement in her voice.
“Already scheduled,” said McGuire, smiling taken in by Modine’s happiness. “She’s going to talk before you and bare all about her abuses at the hands of Castro. She’ll move a few people…finally convince these idiots that Castro really is a monster.”

Modine then bolted from her chair and jumped up and down, giddy. She then let out a few fists pumps and yelped in joy before she regained her composure.

Modine then gave McGuire a hug.

“I think we just swung the election,” she said, heartily embracing McGuire. “I can just feel it.”

November 12, 2016,
14:15 local time,
Colbert’s Diner,
Portland, Maine

“After Clara Hughson’s bombshell,” said CNN afternoon anchor Poppy Harlow from the TV screens broadcast at the diner, “there’s more trouble in store for Juan Castro as over 100 women have come forward to allege he also sexually assaulted them in some way.”

The broadcast then broke away from Harlow momentarily to show a clip of Hughson’s speech at La Grande, Quebec, where she was flanked by Modine. Much of the audio was difficult to decipher, as Hughson spoke through a torrent of tears while recounting her experiences with Castro. A gifted actress, many of Hughson’s “experiences” were outright fabrications, some of which were fed to her by Modine, although the first encounter with Castro she described she was more truthful.

After the clip, the broadcast went back to Harlow, who announced that she had Castro on the phone and would be conducting an interview with him shortly.

“Listen to that broad, why don’t you?” said Castro right off the bat.
“Juan,” said Harlow, not hiding the consternation in her voice, “you’re on the air.”
“Oh I know that,” said Castro, “at this stage, I just don’t care. That sorry excuse for a human being is a lying fraud.”
“I don’t know Juan,” said Harlow, “her accounts are pretty detailed. I’m not sure how she could fabricate all that.”
“Come on, Poppy,” said Castro. “It doesn’t take much to use your imagination and come up with those ridiculous scenarios. Look, I won’t get into it- I’ll leave ‘the Internets’ to do that- but I will say that I can give you all the proof you need to show that I wasn’t even there in many of those rendezvous she claims we had.”

Harlow did her best to stay composed, even though burning inside of her was a rage over Castro’s obliviousness.

“What about the new allegations that came out today?” said Harlow, hoping a slight change in course would keep the conversation composed.
“You mean all the new liars?” said Castro.
“Juan,” said Harlow, “there are 103 women that have come out today and said that you have sexually assaulted them. Some of those are cases we’ve already known for years while others are new. Are you going to tell me they’re all liars?”
“Yes,” said Castro curtly.
“100 women?” said Harlow.
“Did I stutter, Poppy?” snarled Castro. “Did I? Because I think I’m pretty clear.”
“Yes, but I don’t know how you can discard the credibility of 100,” said Harlow. “One or two...maybe...but 100?”
“What’s the old adage?” retorted Castro. “ ‘Facts are not a democracy’? This isn’t a numbers game, Poppy...none of them are telling the truth.”

As Castro continued his incendiary antics while Harlow did her best to keep her composure on air, Ned McCallum could only shake his head. He then turned his attention back to his son, Stuart, with whom he was having lunch.

“Can you believe those b***es?” said Ned, turning to his son.
“What do you mean, Dad?” said Stuart, his interest piqued.
“They pick this time, of all times, to share their ‘stories’,” said Ned. “First of all, they’re all liars anyway and second of all, them being opportunistic about it only confirms this.”
“I don’t understand,” said Stuart.
“Let me tell you something about democracy,” said Ned. “It’s all about marketing…image. You gotta do everything you can to make the other guy look horrible, and that means piling on as much dirt as you can about the other guy. Right now, Haylie Modine thinks she can get an advantage by painting Juan Castro as someone who is horrible to women, which is an outright lie when you know who Juan Castro really is.”
“Yeah, but Dad,” said Stuart, “you heard Poppy…100 women have come forward saying Juan Castro sexually assaulted them. How could they all be liars?”

Ned clasped his hands together and flashed a wry smile before answering.

“Let me tell you something about women,” said Ned. “They’re all liars. See, they’re not as strong as us men, so in order to gain an advantage, they’ll play the victim. Cry ‘rape’ or ‘assault’ simply because they know it’ll get them sympathy and get them help to overcome the man who is clearly much stronger than she is. See, men have the physical advantage, so women try to counter this by having the psychological advantage.

“So we need to be smarter and we need to recognize their games. That’s the first part.

“The second part is the timing. Why did all those women decide that now, in the middle of an election campaign, was the right time to come out with their allegations? If they were true, why didn’t they come out sooner? Why wait until now, when those stories can inflict the highest possible damage? This just reeks of Modine using those stories for gain, and that makes me think they’re all fabricated.

“The third thing is…well, you heard Juan. The truth isn’t a democracy…it doesn’t matter how many people say something wrong, it doesn’t change the fact what they’re saying is still wrong. Juan could have 200 women alleging misdeeds and they’d all still be wrong.”

Stuart took a drink of his chocolate milkshake, listening intently, when a commotion interrupted Ned’s rant.

Towards the diner’s bar, a man and a woman were seen engaged in a yelling match. Although Ned didn’t know what the fight was about, he felt compelled to walk over and offer his opinion.

Seeing the diner manager intervene only bolstered his resolve.

“I’m sorry,” said the man to the woman. His nerves had gotten the better of him, making him awkward and uncomfortable while talking to the woman, who had been getting progressively more annoyed with him.
“You can say sorry as much as you like,” said the woman. “Are you going to finally leave me alone?”
“Yes, yes,” said the man, panting heavily. “Again, I’m so sorry…I’m just not good with signs and all this stuff…I misread a few things. I’m sorry.”

“Is everything okay?” said the diner manager.
“Well this lout here won’t leave me alone,” said the woman. “He’s been trying to talk to me for over twenty minutes when I never showed once that I was interested.”
“Really, I thought she was interested,” stammered the man. “I never knew until now, when she said it, that she didn’t want to talk to me.”
“Hello?” said the woman, giving the man a look. “Haven’t you ever heard of being polite? That’s all I was doing, a**hole. Didn’t you notice I never asked you any questions, gave you eye contact or gave you anything more than one-word answers?”
“Honestly, no,” said the man. “I’m a guy…I don’t do ‘hints’ very well.”

“I think it’s time you leave,” said the diner manager, who was very stern with his hands on his hips. “You’ve bothered this woman enough.”
“Fine,” said the man, downcast and defeated. “I was getting ready to leave anyway. I’m sorry for the trouble.”

“Hold on, hold on just a second,” said Ned, intervening. He then turned to the man. “Buddy, you’re not going anywhere.”
“Excuse me,” said the diner manager. “Who are you?”
“By Jove!” said the woman, throwing up her hands. “All I wanted was a coffee!”
“Never mind who I am,” said Ned. “I need to stand up for this fine gentlemen against a sleazy woman and her white knight.”
“What did you just call me?” said the woman.

Ned ignored her, turning his ire towards the manager.

“I’m sorry,” said Ned, “but what offence did this man do that was so egregious that he has to be removed from the premises?”
“I think bothering one of my clients is good enough,” said the manager.
“Over words?” said Ned, shaking his head. “Simple, simple words. Words that can be dismissed. Did he say something racial, or sexist or even mean at all?”
“No, but-” said the manager.
“Just as I thought,” interrupted Ned, who wore a smug smile on his face.
“Words don’t matter jackass,” said the woman. “It’s intent…and he didn’t leave me alone for over twenty minutes.”
“I doubt that very much,” said Ned. “He was only there for five minutes…but even if he was there for twenty minutes, a simple ‘please leave me alone’ is all you needed to do.”
“You just don’t get it do you?” said the woman, shaking her head.
“No, you don’t get it,” said Ned, pointing at the woman before pointing at the manager, “and neither do you. A simple apology and that’s all this needed. The end. Nobody needs to get kicked out and treated like a monster for something very minor.”

The woman’s eyes shot up, wide as they could be.

Minor?” she said. “Hey mansplainer, do you know how many times I get guys hitting on me every day? Do you? Or is your bubble of privilege unable to see anything other than your reality?”
“Oh I think it’s you that doesn’t see reality,” said Ned. “Men chase women…that’s how it is in our society and in other societies and in every society ever since the beginning of mankind. There’s nothing you can do to change that.”
“Really, huh?” said the woman. “Even if that were so, women should be able to go to a coffee shop at noon and be able to enjoy a nice coffee all by themselves.”

The woman then got up and picked up her purse, starting to rustle through it.

“You know what,” said the woman, “I’m done. How much is this coffee?”

The manager waved his hands in front of him, towards the woman.

“No no no,” he said. “It’s free. In fact, lunch is on me next time.”
Thank you,” said the woman, sneering at Ned and the hopeless Lothario. “Hopefully next time will be much better.” She then slung her purse over her shoulder and walked out, the clicks of her high heels loudly and emphatically leaving their mark with each step.

“Maybe next time you can get her number,” said Ned, snickering at the manager.
“You know, maybe it’s time you left too,” said the manager in a huff. “I’ve had enough of female harassment today. You both should be ashamed of yourselves…this is a diner, not a nightclub! Even if it were-”
“Save your breath, Lord Byron,” said Ned, who could only shake his head and walk back to his table in disbelief.

“Anyway son, we gotta go,” said Ned, ushering Stuart out of his seat.
“What was that all about?” said Stuart, confused about the whole ordeal.
“Son,” said Ned, “let’s just say that today you’ve witnessed the reason why Juan has to win. Because we have too many whiny, crybully women and too many figuratively castrated men running rampant in this society…and if we don’t fight back, us real men…we’ll be exterminated.”

Stuart listened and nodded, offering no reply. Instead, he pondered what his dad had just said, and though he trusted hia dad’s judgement, something stopped him from agreeing with him- he just didn’t know what.

November 17, 2016
09:45 local time,
Dollard Grand Hall,
Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec

“Yes, yes,” said Hughson, trying to hurriedly finish a phone call in a nook backstage. “That’s fine.”

She then ended the call and let out a relieved huff when Modine walked up to her.

“Is everything okay?” said Modine with a smile.
“Oh, oh yeah,” said Hughson with a smile. “Of course it is. Just had to cross my t’s and dot my i’s…I’m so glad I get to be your running mate!”
“Yeah I’m so happy,” said Modine, as both hugged and jumped up and down with excitement.

Modine then walked out, starting her campaign event. Today was a “town hall” meeting where the topic was sexual assault, where Modine encouraged sexual assault and sexual harassment victims- whom she termed “survivors”- to share their stories and suggest ideas that could assist in eradicating the abuses.

As the event was deemed a “safe space”, dissent in the room was swiftly dealt with. Anyone who dared in the slightest to challenge the veracity of victims’ stories or to argue rape “isn’t a problem”, alongside anyone else who seemed to fit Modine’s very broad definition of who constituted a “rape apologist” was quickly and summarily evicted without warning. Most of the troublemakers were Castro supporters, almost all male although a few women posed challenges.

The problems were few and far between, as most shared their stories with little issue. Many of them were heartbreaking, with tears flowing liberally as the victims shared their darkest experiences. Almost all of them received a hug from Modine, who was herself moved to tears many times.

Midway through the session was the story of Alex Millard, Bowman’s boyfriend, who made the trip here as he was originally a Montreal native.

“Hi,” said Millard after Modine introduced him. “As Hayley said, I’m Alex...I live in Maine but I am originally from Montreal. I moved to Maine as the Black Bears gave me a scholarship for football...I hope one day I’ll play professionally.”

Millard took a deep breath in a bid to contain his nerves, which were calmed when Modine encouraged him and rubbed his back.

“Anyway, during my first year,” he said, “I met this incredible girl...her name is Trudy. She’s a cheerleader at Espen Knutsen High School and we met when, as a junior her team competed at Maine for the state championship. We’ve been dating for over a year now and I can’t be happier.”

The crowd let out an applause, which Millard appreciated.

“I wanted to talk today,” he said, struggling with his confidence but willed on by the crowd, “because a few days ago something happened to Trudy that made me think, ‘Juan Castro needs to be stopped’ and I’d like to share it with you today.

“At Trudy’s school, I found out that a guy we had thought was really a nice guy- Stuart McCallum- was really a serial assaulter. I wasn’t there, unfortunately, to witness this event…and I’m sure Stuart was glad I wasn’t there because there would have been…words, let’s just say. This guy, who normally is very quiet, decided a few days ago that he’d walk up to Trudy and ‘take his chance’ as they say. Only that, in this case, instead of just having a conversation, he decides it’s perfectly okay to take his hand shove it inside her shirt and just…have his way on her breast.”

The audience, including Modine, let out a loud gasp.

“I know,” said Millard. “I couldn’t believe it. Like how someone even thinks this is a good idea I’ll never even know. However, that’s not the worst of it.”

The audience then let out another gasp.

“No,” said Millard. “The worst of it is that Stuart had just done it to another girl, and who knows how many scores of others he did it to. That’s not all though…no, this assaulter got the idea from Castro himself, as Castro had said, once, on Modern Man that reaching in to a girl’s shirt and caressing her breast is a sure fire way to get her to say ‘yes’ to you. I mean, can you guys believe that? We all know Juan Castro’s a special kind of perv…but this…this is a whole ’nother level. After hearing about that…I have no choice but to come here and personally tell you that even men have an obligation to stop Juan Castro’s bulls***.”

The audience let out a thunderous applause as Modine hugged Millard and thanked him for his time. Before introducing the next story, Modine took the stage.

“I never knew that was a segment on Modern Man,” said Modine. “I can’t even believe that it was. I always knew that Castro taught men to be predators…but that’s just proof. How could he be so brazen as to tell his audience that they are entitled to our bodies? That’s the ultimate level of disrespect there.”

The audience let out another thunderous applause, which it sustained for several minutes before launching into a standing ovation that overwhelmed Millard. He then took his seat and watched as more stories during the town hall event were told.

November 19, 2016,
20:08 local time,
Maple Leaf Gardens,
Toronto, Ontario

“I’d like to move on to another subject, and probably the most salient one,” said Anderson Cooper, the moderator for tonight’s debate between the candidates for the North American Presidency, Modine, Castro and Bighill, “and that’s the recent spike in sexual assaults that have been attributed to you and your campaign, Mr. Castro. As we know, Mr. Castro has a commanding lead in the polls but this wave of assaults is threatening to undermine that and is leaving, understandably, a lot of people afraid of what a Castro Presidency will bring. Haylie, why don’t you start?”

“Excuse me, Andy,” interjected Castro, who threw up his hands. “You accuse me of starting this ridiculous trend and you let the broad start?”
“Mr. Castro,” said Cooper, flustered. “I’m not going to remind you again to please watch your language and be respectful.”
“Oh, and what are you going to do?” said Castro, putting his hands on his hips. “Throw me out? That will only prove you and your sorry candy-assed station of its biases.”
“Can you believe this guy?” said Bighill. “How can anyone believe he’s qualified to be President? He acts like a two-year-old.”
“Said the guy who cried when his sandwich was knocked out of his hands,” retorted Castro.
“Guys, enough,” said Cooper, letting out an audible sigh. “Hayley, please.”

Thank you, Mr. Cooper,” said Modine as she had to raise her voice to stop Castro from interjecting again. “As you stated, yes, a lot of people are afraid, as they should be, and that is all reason enough that Juan Castro is just not fit to be President. It was reason enough when we heard that over 100 women have come forward and said that Castro sexually assaulted them, but now that we’ve experienced over 200 incidents across the continent where men are committing sexual assault in Castro’s name…well, that’s reason enough to give anyone pause. I mean, we cannot- cannot- have someone who thinks it’s okay to promote sexual violence against women. Juan, we are not your playthings and we will not allow you to think you can have your way with us- I just won’t allow it! That’s why when I’m President, we’re going to have a comprehensive review of the sexual assault laws and we will do everything we can to make prosecuting sexual assault easier, including provisions to encourage more reports and to force suspected rapists to testify in court.”

“Thank you, Hayley,” said Cooper, who turned his attention to Bighill as Castro again gave an incredulous look. “Thomas, your reply?”

“Thank you, Mr. Cooper,” said Bighill. “I am so honoured that you would give me the opportunity to address this matter. In principle, I must agree with Hayley that this string of sexual assaults is rather unfortunate and rather unbecoming of our society, and that Juan is entirely to blame for this. However, she does not go far enough in her proposals in dealing with sexual assault. What Castro has shown us is that our continent needs the safe space law, where it will be deemed illegal to even say anything that could be construed as a sexually offensive statement. If we are to stamp out sexual assault, we must start at the source and stamp it out before it becomes an even larger problem.”

“Thank you, Thomas,” said Cooper, who then sighed before continuing. “Juan…”

“I can’t believe the stupidity of you people,” said Castro. “First, Hayley…there’s a reason why defendants have the right to silence, because it’s not their job to prove their innocence. It’s the prosecution’s job to prove their guilt. I don’t care how many victims are unable to ‘prove their case’ because they have to face scrutiny from the defence…I’m sorry, but that’s just how court works. You allege something, you gotta prove it. The defendant doesn’t have to do jack. As for you, Thomas…I won’t even get into your stupid laws where you think you can stamp out free speech. You already know that you’d never be able to get away with it.”

“Just like how people get away with sexual assault every day,” said Modine, interjecting. “All because our laws are pathetic. Of course, you don’t want to change that…because you actually promote sexual assault.”

The audience gasped before Modine got into her argument.

“Two days ago, in Montreal,” said Modine, “I heard a story from a man who told me that a one Stuart McCallum decided it was ‘okay’ to put his hand up his girlfriend’s shirt and feel up her breast. That’s not the worst of it…no, this monster, McCallum, had done it before, and he learned, in fact, from Modern Man, Juan Castro’s TV show, that this was an entirely acceptable and appropriate way to ‘ask out’ a girl. So, Mr. Castro…you have no argument. On your own show you told men that sexual assault is OK, and is even a trick you can use to get any girl they want.”
“I’m sorry Hayley,” said Castro. “That segment, nor any other segment like it, ever aired on Modern Man. I should know…I made the show after all. Look back at my footage…you will see I never advocate for sexual assault. Never. I have always told my audience that women are to be respected and that there is no ‘magic trick’ a man can use to corral any girl. If you’re going to criticize my show, at least get it right.”
“I am getting right!” shouted Modine, who was about to continue before Cooper interrupted her.

“Actually, Hayley,” said Cooper, “Juan is right…the clip you claim Stuart’s actions were inspired by never did air on Modern Man. We checked, Snopes checked, checked, Politifact checked, even Hoax Slayer and Break The Chain checked. None of them found any evidence that Castro actually promoted sexual assault once on his show.”
“Mr. Cooper!” said Modine, looking at Cooper in disbelief. “I can’t believe you would say that! Are you a rape apologist too?”

Cooper covered his face with his hands and shook his head.

“This has nothing to do with being a rape apologist,” said Cooper, doing his best to stay composed. “This is just about the facts, and the fact is, the clip you are claiming Modern Man aired does not exist. I’m not making a judgement either way on Stuart’s actions, just stating that he couldn’t have learned the trick directly from Modern Man.”

“You know,” said Castro, pulling out a letter. “Ned, Stuart’s father, wrote to me the other day. It’s really heartbreaking stuff…let me read it to you.

“ ‘Dear Juan,

“ ‘I am writing to let you know that your opponent, Hayley Modine, has specifically mentioned my son as a reason why you should not be elected. This should already be alarming enough that someone feels compelled to use my son for political motivations, but what should alarm you even more is the effect that it has had not just on my son’s life but my life as well.

“ ‘Since the incident that Hayley so openly and brazenly talks about as if it was nothing, Stuart and I have been on the run. Our own neighbours have turned on us, the entire town and many people whom we thought were friends. We both have received multiple death threats and Stuart was even shot at the other day. Stuart was even sexually assaulted by a woman who told him ‘he needed a dose of his own medicine’. Our lives have been a living hell ever since Hayley thought we were ‘useful’, and this leaves me even more scared for our continent than I ever was before. I have never met a group of people who are more zealous and so unethical as Hayley supporters, who seem to believe that everyone who does not agree with her is not even worthy to be classified as a human being.

“ ‘This is why I am voting for you, Juan, because at least you remember that your opponents are still human beings. I am not sure I can say that about Queen Modine.

“ ‘Thank you,’ signed ‘Ned McCallum’.”

Castro turned and gave Modine an icy stare.

“Death threats?” he said, not hiding his anger. “Forcing men to be on the run? Sexual assault? I can’t even believe you Hayley…the ends you will go to make sure you get your own way. You’re even worse than Thomas.”
“Hey!” bellowed Bighill before the audience was struck by Modine.

Modine had her eyes, trying her best to suppress her tears, but she was failing. There were times where she let out audible cries and she lowered her head so that she couldn’t be seen on camera actually crying.

At one point, though, she decided it wasn’t worth it and decided to show her face, tears and all.

“Do you…do you know how many times I’ve had my breast touched?” said Modine through tears. “Do you know how many times I’ve had to deal with the sickening stares and statements from creeps like you, Juan? Do you know how many times men have forced themselves upon me and j-j-just…had their way with me and my body simply because they thought they could? Do you? Do you, Juan?”

She paused to wipe more tears from her eyes.

“No, no, no,” she said. “Don’t even answer, Juan, because I can tell you that you don’t. You never did…because you have never experienced it. Because you don’t have to worry about being in a culture that thinks women are merely its servants, having no control over what we can do or even how we can look. No…everything about us is dictated to us by men. Everything. Don’t even try to say otherwise because, deep down inside, you know it’s true. Women just don’t have independence, and under you…they never will.”

The audience let out a thunderous applause while Castro could only look on, shaking his head.

November 20, 2016,
22:01 local time,
Trudy Bowman’s house,
Newport, Maine

“Who could this possibly be?” said Bowman, forced to get up from the couch as she heard a knock on her door.

As her father worked the night shift as a police officer and her mother was on a similar shift as a nurse, Bowman was left in charge of the house, so she called over her boyfriend to hang out at the house. Millard was in the kitchen trying to whip up some cookies for he and Bowman to eat later, and thus wasn’t able to answer the door.

The one who was at the door shocked Bowman.

“Stuart?” said Bowman, looking on as Stuart McCallum was in front of her, struggling to make eye contact.
“Trudy,” said McCallum, “I know this is weird…”
“Um, you think?” said Bowman.
“Just hear me out,” said McCallum. “It took me so much to come here and I feel so bad about everything and-”

McCallum’s words were stopped in their tracks when Bowman slammed the door in his face.

McCallum then lowered his head and let out a sigh as he walked away, figuratively kicking himself for believing it was a smart idea to come to Bowman’s home.

“Stuart,” yelled Bowman, who re-opened the door. “Come back.”

McCallum smiled, his spirits lifted when he heard Bowman reconsidered her decision not to let him in. He came into the house as Bowman closed the door behind him.

“You can at least wait in here until your father can pick you up,” said Bowman.
“Thank you,” said McCallum as he took off his coat.
“This isn’t an act of friendship,” said Bowman. “I just don’t want you to freeze out there.”

“Hey, what’s going…” started Millard before he noticed McCallum.

You…” said Millard, approaching McCallum menacingly before Bowman stopped him.

“Alex,” said Bowman, “that’s enough.”
“He touched your breast, Trudy,” said Millard in disbelief. “You want him to be in here?”
“Alex, it’s 10 below,” said Bowman. “The least I can do is let him wait here until his father can pick him up.”
“What if he tries again?” said Millard, still visibly upset. “You can’t risk it.”
“I’m not going to try again,” said McCallum, who lowered his head. “I already feel so awful about what happened, and I’m extremely ashamed I even thought it was a good idea…believe me, I can’t even fathom trying again.”
“If you try-” said Millard aggressively pointing at McCallum before Bowman stopped him.
“Alex!” said Bowman, frustrated at what was happening.

“OK,” said Bowman, trying to maintain the peace. “Stuart, I’m going to call your father-”
“Don’t,” said McCallum. “He got a burner phone when he left Newport…his cell phone is back at our house.”
“Where’s your father?” said Millard.
“I’m not supposed to say it,” said McCallum, “but after the debate I don’t care…he’s in Dover right now, or at least he was…I sneaked out in the middle of the night from our motel and took a bus to come up here, with all the money I had.”
“What are you, stupid?” said Millard.
“Alex!” said Bowman. She then paused understanding the gravity of McCallum’s actions, contemplating what they meant for the current situation.

“Alex is right,” said McCallum. “I did something stupid.” He let out a heavy sigh before he continued. “Look, Trudy…I didn’t come here because I wanted friendship or even your forgiveness…I just wanted your understanding. This isn’t about all the bad things that have happened to me…I just hate that what I’ve done has become so political and that it’ll make people like you believe things about me that just aren’t true.”
“I don’t know what kind of understanding you want,” said Millard with his hands folded. “You grabbed her breast.”

“I’m not going to make apologies for that,” said McCallum, lowering his head and overall struggling with eye contact. “Just know that I took in some bad advice and that I did something that goes against everything I ever believed in, and that if I could take it all back that I would. I’m not even going to pretend like I know what you’re going through and what kind of effect what I did is having on you. Just know that I never meant to hurt you and that…that I wish I just never did it.” Tears began to form in his eyes as he became overwhelmed by his emotions.

“Please, please Trudy,” said McCallum as a torrent of tears launched from his eyes. “I really want you to know that. I’m so sorry, I couldn’t even be more sorry, and that I wish I never did what I did. I also want to tell you that I’d never ever do what I did again…I more than learned my lesson.”

McCallum then broke down in tears, burying his head in his hands before stepping towards his coat and crying some more.

“You think that’s enough?” said Millard. “ ‘I’m sorry’? Sorry dude, but considering what you did…there’s not enough ‘sorries’ that would make up for it.”
“Alex,” said Bowman, who pursed her lips to the side and let out a sigh. McCallum then reached for his coat before Bowman stopped him.

“Stuart,” said Bowman. “I’ve known you for two years. Not once have I ever felt threatened by you or did I ever think you would try to victimize me or harm me in any way. You were always shy and awkward…and, deep down inside, I know there’s a sweet little angel that’s just waiting to give a lucky girl a love she never thought was possible.”

“Trudy…” said McCallum, looking on in shock. “Trudy…do you…do you believe that?”

“Yes,” said Bowman with a smile. “Yes I do. I always have and I always will, even though you committed a very grave mistake. Do you want to know why?”
“Why?” said McCallum.
“Because, even right afterward,” said Bowman, “I knew that you knew that what you did was a mistake, and that the real culprits were the people who you thought were your friends.”

“…but,” said McCallum, getting downcast. “You didn’t defend me when Pendergast came or the Principal asked what happened. You also seemed pretty upset after Lisa told you I’d victimized her.”
“I was in shock, Stuart,” said Bowman. “I just didn’t know what to make of it. So many things happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to think. I didn’t get a chance to think about it until I got home that day. That was when I realized that Kerry and Caroline are habitual liars and pranksters and probably weren’t telling the truth, and that your story about how you were tricked was likely true. I’ve always known you to be honest, Stuart. I just wished I had realized that sooner, so that maybe you’d have school to go to tomorrow.”
“You know it’s funny,” said McCallum. “I hate that place…but now I’d give anything just to go back there.” He then broke down in tears again.

“You know,” said Millard, taken in by McCallum’s show of emotion. “I have to say that I didn’t like how Hayley used Trudy’s pain as a ‘selling point’ for her campaign. It just makes it feel so fake and dishonest…like she doesn’t actually care about the victims, she just wants to use them to get herself to the White House.”
“Her tears at the end seemed very real though,” said McCallum.
“Hayley’s a politician,” said Bowman. “She knows what she’s doing. She wouldn’t cry on air if she didn’t think it would benefit her…and, you know, her back and forth with Juan Castro, where both tried to paint the other side as the real victimizers…it just made me think that we’re not addressing sexual assault the right way in this society. We attack the action…we don’t attack its source.”
“What do you mean?” said McCallum.

“Stuart,” said Bowman, who let out a deep breath before continuing. “If we didn’t live in a society that equated manhood with his sexual prowess, we wouldn’t have this problem. I watched Modern Man the other day and there was something that struck me…Juan actually said that not every man can be a ‘player’ and that this is OK. I instantly thought of you…you’re never going to be a ‘player’, Stuart. I think you know that.”
“Yeah,” said McCallum sheepishly, lowering his head before Bowman lifted it up with her hands.
“I told you, it’s OK,” she said. “Stuart, you’re the kind of guy that wants deep, meaningful relationships…you don’t want 100 superficial friends. That’s just not who you are.”
“You’re right,” said McCallum, realizing that Bowman truly was right about him.
“You’re not going to want to see a girl for a week,” said Bowman. “You’re going to want to see her for much longer, and that’s perfectly OK.”

“Yeah Stuart,” said Millard. “Any kind of interaction you have with someone has to have meaning. You just won’t accept attention from just about anyone- they have to mean something to you. It’s why you keep talking to Trudy…because she’s pretty…and she gives you the time of day.”
“No no no,” said McCallum, trying to protest. “It’s not her looks.”

Bowman could only laugh sardonically.

“Stuart honey,” she said. “It’s okay. I’m ‘the cheerleader’…I’m used to being ‘the trophy’. I’m sure there have been many people that told you that if you ‘snared’ me that you’d be a king.”
“Yeah, I have,” said McCallum, embarrassed.
“Stuart, it’s okay,” said Bowman. “I’m used to it. I don’t like it, but, I’m used to it. It’s things like this that people like Hayley Modine- or even Juan Castro, I’d say- don’t understand…that people like you are continually pressured to go after people like me. That, for a man, the only thing about the girl he’s dating is how ‘hot’ she looks. Not that there is anything wrong with a guy wanting a girl who looks good…it’s just that guys should go after a girl for more than what she looks. That guys should care about her personality and her interests, and that if a guy has to wait longer just find a girl he enjoys being around (because sometimes, that’s just reality)…that’s OK.”

“Yeah,” said Millard. “Attractiveness should get you to the door…it shouldn’t be what causes you to open it.”

“Good point,” said McCallum. “So…you really think that would solve the sexual assault thing?”

“I don’t think we’ll ever solve sexual assault,” said Bowman. “There will always be people who will go after others…it’s just reality. However, we need to make a distinction between real predators and people like you who just fell prey to society’s expectations. The former, we can’t change, but the latter…we can work with them and change them. I know you want to change.”

“Yes, yes, I do,” said McCallum, nodding profusely. “I don’t want to be my father…he keeps telling me to grab girls and grope them and…I’ve seen him do it. Then I see how angry the women get and I wonder why he does it. It serves him no purpose.”
“Then we wonder why our sexual assault responses don’t work,” said Millard. “Because we keep on focusing on people like your father yet we don’t try to talk to people like you.”

The timer then went off in the kitchen. It was Millard’s cookies, ready to take out of the oven. After a few minutes, they were ready to eat.

“I think the cookies are ready,” said Bowman, putting her hand on McCallum’s shoulder. “Stuart, do you want to try one?”
“I think I do,” said Stuart with a smile. This caused Bowman to smile, and it caused the two of them to come together in a hearty embrace.

“These are really good cookies,” said McCallum, as the three of them enjoyed Millard’s cookies on the couch.
“Thanks,” said Millard. “I made them myself.”
“How do you make them?” said McCallum.
“Stuart,” said Bowman with a laugh. “He’s not going to tell you…he doesn’t tell me.”
“Sorry bud,” said Millard. “Secret recipe.”
“You should sell your cookies,” said McCallum. “They’re really that good.”
“After the football career,” said Millard. “Got that to worry about first.

Everyone laughed before McCallum’s mood soured.

“Stuart,” said Bowman concerned for McCallum, “what is it? You can tell us anything.”
“I don’t want to go back to my father,” said McCallum.

Bowman and Millard looked at each other and then looked back at McCallum, letting out a sigh.

“I’ll talk to my parents,” said Bowman. “When I tell them you’re contrite and it’s what I want, they’ll let you stay.”
“I got a dorm room you can stay at,” said Millard. “Might have to sleep on a chair but it’ll be temporary.”

McCallum looked on, shocked at the developments.

“You guys would be willing to do all that,” he said. “For me?”
“You want to change yourself,” said Millard, “and surround yourself with real friends. I think we owe it to you to help you.”
“Thanks guys,” said McCallum with a wide smile. “You guys are probably the best friends I’ve ever had.”
“That’s because you are the best friend anyone could ask for,” said Bowman, who then gave McCallum another hug as Millard looked on, smiling.

“A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.” - C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (1945)